Dog Breed Information, Not Always Reliable

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© 2018 Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

I was looking through an expansive dog breed reference recently and found some things that bothered me - and should bother you too. The information I’m referring to is found on a smartphone app that documents over 500 breeds; there are many of these types of apps. I never take the information in encyclopedic dog breed references too seriously for three reasons:

  1. They are frequently written by breeders who have a vested interest in making the breed look as favorable as possible.

  2. While breeds certainly have discernible physical attributes, temperaments of breeds are much less quantifiable. Even within the same breed, dogs vary tremendously in their personalities.

  3. There is so much bad and misleading information about dogs on the internet, in books and in magazines that it’s almost an epidemic. It makes me uncomfortable to think how much of this erroneous information might be found in a really large reference on dog breeds.

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For example, if you look up German Shepherd Dogs in the reference mentioned above, you will find the pictured graphic that addresses the major attributes of this breed. I’m okay (for the most part) with the categories that are listed except for the last one, “Protection”. There are so many things wrong with this that it hurts my head.

When will the general public and the media learn that pet dogs don’t really protect their owners? Pet dogs don’t protect their owners; they are simply trying to scare away things the dog fears. The other behavior that looks like “protection” is when they resource guard their owners (which is very different from “protecting”). A dog breed reference should know better than this, especially one that addresses behavior attributes of breeds. For more information on this subject see: Do Dogs Instinctively Protect Their Owners?

And what does the continuum between “timid” and “assertive” mean? Dogs that may be viewed as “assertive” (or aggressive) are frequently actually just fearful and use aggression to keep things they fear at a distance. Conversely, dogs that are supremely confident can appear to be “timid”; they have no need to use aggression because not much bothers them. And sometimes dogs that are “timid” can actually be fearful and use avoidance to get away from things that scare them. The way it is depicted is erroneous and oversimplified.

German Shepherd Dogs do have some temperamental attributes that can be found in the breed. The “protection” issue as it applies to German Shepherd dogs in particular can be summed up in this article if you’d like to know more: German Shepherds are the Second Most Popular Dog in America. Why do you Rarely See Them in Public?

Be careful when you look for information about dog breeds. Always consider the source. For more information see: Fake Dog News, It’s Everywhere.

I’ve found that breed-specific rescue organizations can be one of the best sources of information about specific breeds. They aren’t breeding or selling dogs to make a profit and they see all the different life-stages of these dogs.